Who’s The Real Pinterest Problem?

Posted: July 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Tara Conley’s article, The Pinterest Problem, describes Pinterest and its new high status as a social media platform that basically allows millions to communicate ideas and inspirations, pinspirations if you will, through the sharing of visual images.

The issue brought up is that while bringing awareness to a spectrum of global, national, and/or societal matters that are good for people to learn about, users also tend to ‘re-pin’, which is another word for sharing on the site, images and slogans to motivate women to lose weight and embrace fitness…often times, using looking good in an outfit as one’s inspiration or looking “hot as f***” naked. Having said that, there are also many images that promote and encourage women (who make up majority of the website’s users) to embrace their bodies, remember what is important in life, etc. and it is not always so superficial.

Conley’s article asks what we can do to make Pinterest work for us to benefit civil activism work, rather than just fun outfits or easy recipes. Honestly, the way Pinterest works is people share what they like. Each pin is just one image and if a user is drawn to it enough that he/she wants to look into it more, then they are taken to a source with more information. It’s fairly simple in that, if the main message or image is not impactful enough, the user will simply move on to the next pin. So, if we want to use Pinterest in a more socially helpful way, it really comes down to the impact brought on by the pins. The more repins an image gets, the more people see it and the awareness spreads based on how many people spread it. Another option would be for, perhaps, a blog to be dedicated to whatever his/her social cause of interest is, and then use Pinterest to raise awareness for it.

At the end of the day, we have to realise that Pinterest is another social networking platform. When it comes to social platforms, people are more interested in things that are of less importance than civil causes like outfits they want but don’t have or workouts they want to do but probably won’t. Of course, it is a frivolous website that definitely promotes consumerism and the superficial side in all of us, but it can be a very helpful site too. Linking people to sites with 101 quick meals may not be the top of the civil society’s to-do list, but it could help a parent with 4 kids on the go. Pinterest makes the internet more accessible, I think in a more cooperative way, and I think that’s important too.

Civil causes definitely deserve a place in Pinterest and are definitely present but not as popular and shared as they could be. In modern social media, your ads have to be hard-hitting and fast! Causes can work their marketing teams to produce harsh but emotionally impactful images to raise awareness and “pinspire” users to share these ideas and causes to everyone.

We have to remember when criticising Pinterest, that it is not the site that is encouraging all of these, sometimes offensive, images or slogans (like the Kate Moss “Skinny” poster). It is the users, which means it is our own society that we should be critiquing, and that is a bigger issue in itself.

A question I would raise is: Is Pinterest healthier, in that it encourages people to express who they are and what they like without feeling embarrassed? Or, is it socially unhealthy in that it almost keeps women (majority of the users) at a socially superficial, and stereotypically feminine – tips for decorating the home, ideas for your future wedding, outfits for any given occasion, recipes to keep your children content and healthy – level?

Here is a link to some activism pinspiration shared on Pinterest! Yes, posts like these are not as popular as the cute outfits and the good hair tips, but they do exist and maybe soon, more and more Pinterest users will share more and more posts like these.



– Karyn D.


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